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The AACTT of Trash Talk: Identifying Forms of Trash Talk in Esports Using Behavior Specification

Sidney V. Irwin, Anjum Naweed, and Michele Lastella

Esports, much like conventional sports, are guided by social norms that determine the acceptability or unacceptability of certain behaviors. One act guided by social norms is trash talk. However, understanding its practice has been difficult due to the various definitions of its use. Focusing on the first-person shooter genre, this study aimed to uncover and encapsulate the various forms of trash talk into a single framework. Applying Presseau et al.’s Action, Actor, Context, Target, and Time (AACTT) framework for specifying behavior, 61 cases of trash talk were analyzed across Counter Strike: Global Offensive, Overwatch, and Rainbow Six: Siege esports. Actions associated with trash talk were primarily found through verbal and written exchanges though they can occur through in-game mechanics—a practice unique to esports. Traditionally, actors and targets are the professional players in a game. However, trash talking was also practiced by coaches, stage talent, and esport organizations. The context of trash talk can be further identified through physical, environmental, and social settings, and whether the time trash talk occurs is centered around a match or tournament. Understanding the impact of each AACTT element may have on the social norms of trash talk can allow researchers to further distinguish behaviors across esport consumers.